Cèline Dion doesn’t want to be “all by [her]self,” and neither do most of us.
Loneliness not only affects your happiness; it affects your health. One study showed that social isolation resulted in a 50% increase in premature death. And, loneliness has been correlated with high blood pressure, decrease in cognitive abilities, and depression.
But one of the big problems with loneliness is that it’s self-feeding. When you feel alone, you’re unlikely to reach out for help, and the longer you go without help, the more alone you feel.
Which begs the question: how do you beat loneliness?
How do I beat loneliness?
It’s important to remember that it is possible to overcome loneliness—if you know what to try. Here are some of our best tips for beating loneliness.
Separate fact from feeling.
When you feel lonely, it can be easy to accept that loneliness as a fact (e.g. “I’m a lonely person”). But the fact of the matter is: none of us is alone. There is always someone, whether a friend, family member, medical professional, therapist, or even a complete stranger, who has been where you are and understands what you’re feeling.
Realizing this can help you internalize this powerful truth: loneliness is a feeling, not a fact. You feel alone, but you’re not actually alone.
When you can see that your loneliness isn’t an indisputable fact, you’ll be able to face it and challenge it. When you can say “I feel lonely, but I’m not alone,” you’re giving yourself the power to overcome the feelings of loneliness.
Challenge your thoughts.
Loneliness often brings with it plenty of negative thoughts:
“No one will ever love me.”
“Everyone hates me.”
“I never get invited to anything.”
These are hard thoughts to face, but recognizing and acknowledging those thoughts is an important step to overcoming them (and therefore beating your loneliness in general).
One way to challenge these negative thoughts is by trying to realize why you’re hanging on to them. Often, we hang on to negative thoughts because there is some amount of truth to them, and/or we think they serve us in some way.
For example, let’s take a look at the thought: “No one will ever love me.” It seems like a depressing thought that no one would want to have…but how might that statement be serving you?
It could help you justify not putting any effort into your relationships (if no one is going to love you anyway, why try?). It could be helping you avoid the risk involved with relationships (by avoiding them altogether). Or, maybe you’ve let shame play such a big role in your life that you automatically gravitate toward thoughts that feed that shame.
Once you realize why you might be holding on to the thought, give yourself some reasons why you might want to let it go. Think about how the thought is holding you back, and how it’s keeping you from what you really want—which is to not be lonely anymore.
Being aware of your thoughts and breaking them down in this way can help you work through them so that they stop getting in your way.
Be with people who fill you.
Have you ever felt alone in a crowded room? Most of us have. It’s the feeling we get from being around people who don’t really fill us or give us what we really need to feel connection.
You don’t have to be around your favorite all the time, and there will be times when you have to be around people who…let’s just say…aren’t exactly your BFFs. But it’s important to make sure that you create plenty of opportunities for you to really engage in consistent, frequent time with people who allow you to be yourself and who help you feel a true, meaningful connection.
This is a way to be proactive about loneliness. As you form deeper bonds with “your people,” you’ll be less likely to feel overwhelming loneliness in the future; or, if you do feel it, you’ll at least feel like you have people you can turn to.
Find your person.
As great as it is to have a solid support group of friends or family, it can also help a lot to have one single person who you know you can go to, no matter what. Your best partner. Whether you’re looking for your “person,” ala Grey’s Anatomy, or your “lobster,” ala Friends, finding that one person will give you a sense of security and make it less likely that you’ll feel alone.
Make time to connect.
Recently, I talked in depth about making time for the things that matter most. One thing that many people say “matters most” to them is deep connection and relationships. So use the tips in that post to help yourself make time for human connection.
Some easy ways to connect might be:
- A text or DM (or even better, a real phone call)
- Setting up a lunch date or opportunity to meet up
- Sending a card (who doesn’t love getting snail mail?)
- Organizing a night out (or even a weekend away)
- Saying hello to your neighbor
- Introducing yourself to another parent at your child’s school
Connection can be big or small, but the more connections you make, the easier it will be for you to beat loneliness.
Go easy on yourself.
Some people are just more social than others—and that’s okay. It can be really easy to beat yourself up on a Friday night when you’re at home, alone, with nothing to do.
This goes back to the idea of loneliness being “self-feeding.” You feel lonely, you feel regret, you feel guilty, you feel lonelier—rinse and repeat. Break the cycle with self-forgiveness.
If you feel you’ve done something in the past that is causing you to be lonely now, it’s time to let it go. Forgive yourself for all those invitations you said no to, the parties you didn’t attend, or the events you thought about organizing and then didn’t. Don’t beat yourself up about your lonely feelings. It won’t help anything and will just make you feel even more lonely.
Strengthen your relationship with yourself.
We’ve already established that relationships are important when it comes to living a healthy, happy life. But that doesn’t mean you should focus only on relationships with other people, because if you do, you’ll be ignoring one of the most important relationships you’ll ever have: your relationship with yourself.
Learning how to be comfortable with yourself means that even if you’re technically “by yourself,” you won’t be “alone.” You’ll feel confident in who you are and what you can do with your time, and you’ll realize that being alone can actually be powerful. With a sense of purpose behind your alone time, you won’t feel lonely.
Loneliness is a feeling most of us are familiar with, but that none of us enjoy. If you want to beat loneliness for good, you’re going to have to practice developing your relationships (including your relationship with yourself), forgiving yourself, and designing thoughts that bring you to a place of happiness and contentment, rather than loneliness.
The good news? You’re not alone on this journey, either. Design.org is here to help. Find out more about our free, personalized coaching service.
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